Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Blog Tour ~ Anything For Her by G J Minett


Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Anything For Her Blog Tour


My thanks to the author and publishers for my invitation to be part of this blog tour


I am excited to be able to feature this lovely guest post by the author sharing 


The locations that feature in Anything For Her


Everyone understands how important characters are and the crucial role they play in keeping a reader hooked. What is less widely recognised is the fact that locations can be equally important, almost characters in their own right. The chance to follow the action as it unfolds in familiar settings seems to add a little extra. Certainly, feedback from book groups and reviewers has been favourable so far about my choice of The Cotswolds for The Hidden Legacy and the Bognor/Chichester area for Lie In Wait.

With those two, I have to confess, I played it safe (euphemism for “I was really lazy”) and stuck to areas I already know really well but with Anything For Her I felt it was time to branch out a little and actually do some research. With that in mind, I came up with two separate locations and spent a few days there, familiarising myself with the layout and identifying specific landmarks. They were chosen as follows:

Rye, Winchelsea and Camber Sands

Rye had been in the back of my mind ever since I saw a TV production of Mapp and Lucia. I was taken with the cobbled streets and mistakenly thought it was the same setting as for Foyle’s War, which turned out to be Hastings. There was something slightly olde England about the town itself and during the three days I was there I got to know the area well and found myself adapting the original plan for the novel to take account of places I’d visited.

I stayed outside the town at a family run B&B called Point Farm on the outskirts of Camber, which of course brought Camber Sands into the equation. I remembered the awful tragedy of a few months earlier when five young men from the London area came down for the day and were caught unawares by the tides and when I went for a long walk along the beach it was almost impossible to imagine how such a thing could have occurred. Then, having walked out an amazing distance to get to the water at low tide, I turned round and found that it was starting to run in channels behind me and I had to wade back through some areas that were already ankle deep. Not long afterwards, the tide came in with a vengeance and it wasn’t too difficult then to appreciate how a non-swimmer might get into difficulties. The slight frisson of danger persuaded me that this setting could play a significant role in the novel.

As for Winchelsea, I’ll admit to a touch of whimsy there. A friend of mine is a Spike Milligan fan and had told me that on his gravestone were inscribed the words ‘I told you I was ill’. When I heard that he was actually buried in the churchyard in Winchelsea I was determined to find out whether this was true or just one of those urban myths. It took me ages to find the gravestone as four locals out walking their dogs were either unaware of where it was or were fed up with strangers asking them the same question every other day. When I did find it, the inscription was in Gaelic so I’m none the wiser, but I’d like to believe it anyway.

Peak’s Island

I knew I needed a location outside the UK and fancied that New England might be a possibility for no better reason than that my wife and I had always wanted to go there. It would be nice to think that my publishers were happy to sponsor it but I suspect they’re worried that if they go down that road my next novel will be set in Turks and Caicos. A self-financed research trip then, sometimes referred to as a holiday. 

When we arrived in Portland, Maine the landlady of the B&B where we were staying (NOT Jeanie Alvares, I hasten to add – you’ll understand if you read the novel!) suggested strongly that we should visit Peak’s Island. We’re so pleased she did. A 15-minute ferry crossing drops you off at this idyllic setting of clapboard houses and homemade apple pie wholesomeness where motorised transport around the island is principally by golf buggy and every corner negotiated reveals amazing scenery. The locals are friendly and it’s almost like stepping back 50 years in time . . . and please don’t infer anything remotely patronising from that remark. I knew within minutes of arriving there that this was going to be the foreign setting for the novel and if you’re ever fortunate enough to travel to New England yourself, I’d strongly recommend a trip to Portland and Peak’s island. I only hope I’ve done it justice.

So, those were the locations for book 3. I’m just off to pack my bags for the Caribbean for book 4 . . . in case my publishers are reading this.


Bonnier Zaffre
Out in ebook
30 November 2017
Out in paperback 22 march 2018

You'd do anything for the one that got away . . . wouldn't you? 

When Billy Orr returns home to spend time with his dying sister, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend Aimi, the love of his life. He might not have seen her in eleven years, but Billy's never forgotten her. He'd do anything for her then, and he'd do anything for her now. 

When Aimi tells him that she wants to escape her abusive husband, Billy agrees to help her fake her own death. But is she still the Aimi that Billy remembers from all those years ago? 

Once Aimi disappears, Billy has to face the possibility that perhaps she had different reasons for disappearing - reasons that might be more dangerous than she's led him to believe . . . 

Sometimes trusting the one you love is the wrong thing to do.


About the author

G.J. Minett studied at Cambridge and then spent many years as a teacher of foreign languages. He studied for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester, and won the 2010 Chapter One Prize for unpublished novels with the opening chapter of The Hidden Legacy. 

You can follow him on Twitter @gjminett #AnythingFor Her

Follow on Facebook 





Huge thanks to the author for spending time with us today and for sharing
 this lovely guest post.



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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Blog Tour ~ East End Angels by Rosie Hendry


Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 


East End Angels Blog Tour




Meet The East End Angels, the newest members of Station Seventy-Five’s ambulance crew – when the war arrives, only true friendship will see them through.


35275261
Sphere
14 December 2017

My thanks to the publishers for my invitation to be part of this blog tour and for my copy of the book

Strong-willed Winnie loves being part of the crew at Station Seventy-Five but her parents are less than happy. She has managed to avoid their pleas to join the WRENS so far but when a tragedy hits too close to home she finds herself wondering if she’s cut out for this life after all. 

Former housemaid Bella was forced to leave the place she loved when she lost it all and it’s taken her a while to find somewhere else to call home. She’s finally starting to build a new life but when the air raids begin, it seems she may have to start over once again. 

East-Ender Frankie’s sense of loyalty keeps her tied to home so it’s not easy for her to stay focused at work. With her head and heart pulling in different directions, will she find the strength to come through for her friends when they need her the most? 

Brought together at LAAS Station Seventy-Five in London’s East End during 1940, these three very different women soon realise that they’ll need each other if they’re to get through the days ahead. But can the ties of friendship, love and family all remain unbroken?


What did I think about it ...

Winnie, Bella and Frankie are a feisty bunch of young women who work closely together as ambulance crew at the LAAS Station Seventy-Five in London’s East End. They are constantly called out to attend the devastation and destruction caused by the nightly bombing raids on London during the Blitz in 1940. The horror they witness on nightly basis bonds the group very firmly together and as they share the ups and downs of their lives so their friendship becomes stronger and stronger. Nicknamed the East End Angels, the ambulance team provide a vital service during this devastating time during WW2.

The separate lives of the three women come together in a lovely way, and even though Winnie, Bella and Frankie are all very different, it is in their shared experiences where the story starts to become really interesting. I didn't know anything about the London ambulance service during WW2, so it was fascinating to read this fictional account of what the crews faced on a regular basis and of the hardships they endured.

The author creates an authentic sense of time and place which really captures the uncertain war time mood. The deadly danger of trying to survive against all odds comes across as does the stoicism of the East Enders who tried to make the best of what life threw at them.The story flows nicely and amidst the gloom, there are some lovely light moments which add necessary light and shade.

And as the private lives of Winnie, Bella and Frankie start to mix with their working lives you can't help but form emotional bonds with  each of them. This trio of strong female protagonists are a lively bunch, they make you laugh out loud at some of their antics and yet, they also show huge compassionate and expertise in the most dire of circumstances.

East End Angels is a lovely war time saga with more than enough adventure and a smattering of romance. It is encouraging to note that there will be a continuation of the East End Angels story in the next book Secrets of the East End Angels which is coming soon.


Rosie Hendry lives by the sea in Norfolk with her husband and two children. East End Angels is the first book in her uplifting and heart-warming saga series that follows the lives and loves of Winnie, Frankie and Bella, who all work for the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service (LAAS) during the Blitz. Listening to her father’s tales of life during the Second World War sparked Rosie’s interest in this period and she loves researching further, searching out gems of real life events which inspire her writing. 


Keep up-to-date with Rosie 

Website

Twitter @hendry_rosie #EastEndAngels @LittleBookCafe

Become her friend on Facebook rosie.hendry.94




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Monday, 11 December 2017

Blog Tour ~ That They Might Lovely Be by David Matthews



Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on That They Might Lovely Be Blog Tour 






I am delighted to welcome the author, David Matthews today to tell us more about 

That They Might Lovely Be





Hi and welcome to Jaffareadstoo, David. Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

I chose to become an English teacher partly because that meant I could continue to delve into literature for a living. The more I read, the more I wanted to write. However, I spent the last eleven years of my career as headteacher of a comprehensive school in Croydon with very little time for anything other than running a school on a shoe-string budget. I scraped a couple of weeks together every summer for writing but it was only after I left teaching that I had enough time to refine the draft of That They Might Lovely Be so it was in a fit state to submit to publishers.

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for That They Might Lovely Be?

A colleague of mine told me that he had been conceived by his mother after the menopause. She had been caught up in an air-raid in the Second World war and (so the story went) the shock shook up her insides so that conception became possible. He said that this condition, though uncommon, was popularly known as ‘The Fall’. Another friend told me that his father had been conceived after his parents heard that their only son had been killed on 11th November 1918, moments before the armistice; this second child (my friend’s father) was to be a consolation. Those two stories stayed with me. When my aunt passed on seventy handwritten pages describing life in a village in Kent, as the daughter of the village schoolmaster, I began to plot a story set between the two world wars.

What can you tell us about the story without revealing too much?

The story revolves around four characters. Hubert and Delia Simmonds are brother and sister, the children of the village schoolmaster. In the summer of 1914 they, with Geoffrey (Hubert’s friend from university) and Anstace (a school friend of Delia’s) they form a friendship which is then tested when war breaks out. This is not, however, a ‘war’ story except in so far as the next twenty years see the survivors working out the consequences of the choices they made during that first war. A child is born but his true identity is not discovered until towards the end of the book. There are secrets and buried memories which have first to be uncovered.

The book title is really interesting, where did the inspiration for the title come from?

At the heart of the story is a boy who, for the first ten years or so of his life is an elective mute. As the secrecy concerning his birth starts to disintegrate, he starts to speak. One evening, he is heard singing an Easter hymn and the book’s title is a line from that hymn, My Song is Love Unknown, the words by Samuel Crossman. Running throughout this story is the question: what is truly lovely in a brutal world?

When researching, That They Might Lovely Be, did you discover anything which surprised you?

I was educated at a Quaker boarding school so I was aware of the pacifist stance and conscientious objection of many Quakers during the world wars. I did not know much about the Friends’ Ambulance Unit or the conditions in prison of Quakers who refused to play even a non-combatant role in the war effort, 1914-18. Their experiences were as harrowing as those of the soldiers on the front-line but they had none of the adulation from the general public to help them cope. Reading my aunt’s memoirs was also a revelation. I came to understand far more about the class hierarchy and social constraints which dominated rural life in the first half of the 20th century. I also had a first-hand view into the details of domestic life for an ordinary, lower-middle-class family.

And finally, what do you hope readers will take away from the story?

I have deliberately set the story during one of the most turbulent periods in recent history. There are some disturbing scenes and there are some truly dysfunctional behaviours. It would be easy to feel the full weight of the world’s horrors. But this story is redemptive. It is about love which transcends aggression, social conventions and the devastatingly petty preoccupations we live with. This love, I suggest, is holy. I should like the reader to engage with the patterns of imagery and symbolism in the book and appreciate the emergence of a holy, redemptive love. I hope that the reader will see the crafting of the story and enjoy the way the layers of meaning sit within a thoroughly absorbing story-line.


Top Hat Books
8 December 2017

No-one thought Bertie Simmonds could speak. So, when he is heard singing an Easter hymn, this is not so much the miracle some think as a bolt drawn back, releasing long-repressed emotions with potentially devastating consequences... 

A decade later, Bertie marries Anstace, a woman old enough to be his mother, and another layer of mystery starts to peel away. Beginning in a village in Kent and set between the two World Wars, That They Might Lovely Be stretches from the hell of Flanders, to the liberating beauty of the Breton coast, recounting a love affair which embraces the living and the dead.


About the Author

David Matthews grew up in Lee on Solent, Hampshire. Following his degree at King's College London and various jobs including selling personalised matchboxes and working in a Covent Garden printing house, David became a teacher. He taught English for twenty two years and was a headteacher for eleven. His play 'Under the Shadow of your Wings' was professionally directed and performed in the summer of 2015, as part of Croydon's heritage festival. He now divides his time between family life in Croydon  and renovating a cottage in south-west France.


Follow the Blog Tour on Twitter #TTMLB @JHPFiction 






My thanks to David for sending time on the blog today and also to Frances for her invitation to be part of this blog tour



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Sunday, 10 December 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..




Poems written in 1917


Servitude

by

Ivor Gurney


If it were not for England, who would bear

This heavy servitude one moment more?

To keep a brothel, sweep and wash the floor

Of filthiest hovels were noble to compare

With this brass-cleaning life. Now here, now there

Harried in foolishness, scanned curiously o'er

By fools made brazen by conceit, and store

Of antique witticisms thin and bare.



Only the love of comrades sweetens all,

Whose laughing spirit will not be outdone.

As night-watching men wait for the sun

To hearten them, so wait I on such boys

As neither brass nor Hell-fire may appal,

Nor guns, nor sergeant-major's bluster and noise.

1917


Ivor Gurney was a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. At the outbreak of war he volunteered as a private in the Gloucestershire regiment but was initially turned down because of poor eyesight. 

 He joined the 2nd and 5th Gloucestershire regiment in 1915.


 He was wounded and gassed in 1917 while serving in France.




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Saturday, 9 December 2017

His Fic Saturday ~ Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb




On Hist Fic Saturday 


Let's go back to ....The First World War


William Morrow
October 2017

My thanks to the authors for my copy of this book

There's something a little bit special about this epistolary novel which will have you reaching for a box of tissues long before you reach the end of this lovely, lovely story.

Set in the tumultuous years of WW1, we get to know Evie Elliot through the chatty letters she writes to her brother,Will and to her brother's best friend, Thomas Harding. Both young men went happily off to war in 1914, thinking that, like so many others, that after a jolly good adventure, the war would be over by Christmas. 

Evie's letters from home do much to bolster Will and Tom's morale and her thoughtful gifts of tobacco and hand knitted socks go a long way to make life in the trenches more bearable. However, time and history would present a very different sort of character to this war, as Will and Tom find out to their cost. Life at home for Evie is very different, closeted in the country with her parents, Evie itches to do something for the war effort and her courage and bravery is testament to all the brave young woman who kept the home fires burning whilst all around them fell apart.

That the novel is an emotional read is something of an understatement, as there were times when I couldn't see the page for tears but through the sadness came that undeniable stoicism which seemed so integral to this amazing generation of young men and women who sacrificed so much of themselves so that the world they fought so hard for could start to have some semblance of peace.

The authors capture time and place to perfection and there were times when I was confronted with so much emotional realism that I had to remind myself that this was a fictional account and not a true story. Thanks to the imagination and written magic of two very talented writers who have made the past come alive in a very special way, Evie, Tom and Will will continue to live on in my imagination for a very long time.


You can read a guest blog post by the author Hazel Gaynor on the intimacy of epistolary novels by clicking here




About the Authors






Hazel Gaynor is now working on her fifth solo novel, a re-imagining of the life of Victorian heroine Grace Darling, and the forgotten lives of female lighthouse keepers of the early 20th century. She is also working on her first book for children.


Twitter @HazelGaynor #LastChristmasInParis

Heather Webb is gearing up to release a historical suspense novel titled The Phantom’s Apprentice, a re-imagining of Phantom of the Opera told from Christine Daae’s point of view on February 6, 2018. She’s also working diligently on an immigration story set in 1901 U.S.



Twitter @MsHeatherWebb #LastChristmasInParis











Friday, 8 December 2017

Blog Tour ~ Just One Time by K S Hunter



Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be one of the blogs privileged to be hosting today's last stop 


on the Just One Time Blog Tour





I'm really delighted to be able to welcome the author, K S Hunter to the blog today to tell us all about Just One Time..



Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Just One Time?

On the floor in the dark in the Duke of York's Theatre in London. I was just about to watch Let the Right One In, which was based on the novel and horror film, when I realised I'd dropped my phone on the floor. It was really dark, so I had no option but to get down there and search. The stranger sitting next to me asked if she could help and before I knew what I was doing I'd given her my phone number so that she could call it. As soon as I said the number, I thought what if...


Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away?

David Madden's marriage is falling apart. Or it has fallen apart. He goes to the theatre alone and what happened to me happens to him. Only Nina, who offers to help him, then finds a way into his life and won't go away. She ultimately demands one thing from him, just one time, and then she promises to leave him alone for ever. But she's not necessarily the kind of person to keep her promises. Just One Time is a modern-day Fatal Attraction and it's about desire, seduction, obsession and revenge. It's very dark and will shock.


How do you plan your writing, are you a plotter, or a see where it goes kind of writer?

I have an idea, in this case the character in the theatre who is pursued relentlessly by this woman, and then I just see where it goes. I never know the ending of a novel when I start it and I often don't even know what's going to be on the next page. I think that if I can surprise myself then maybe I can do the same to the reader. I had a terrible time working out how to end Just One Time, which came to me quite suddenly towards the end of a very long break from writing it - after my son was born, I didn't touch the novel for a year - and at that point I hope I came up with one of the most shocking endings readers will have ever encountered.


Do you have a special place to write and where do you do your best thinking?

I have an office and I'm surrounded by the creative things that inspire me. I have quite a large collection of signed first edition novels and some great signed film and theatre posters. I have a couple of wonderful and rare Phantom of the Opera pieces signed by Michael Crawford. I find my creative output increases when I'm surrounded by these items of inspiration. In addition, I spend quite a bit of time abroad in the summer, which is often when I find my output to be at its most efficient.


What do you consider to be your strongest points as a writer?

Writing my second 'me' novel, which was an international bestseller, taught me a lot about pace - the great elan - and that's something I've managed to maintain as a key feature of my writing since.


Are you your worst critic and why?

It's very hard to read back things you've written after they are published because you will usually dislike something you see. So, yes, I believe I am because I always pick at things if I read something I've written. I usually shake my head and tut in disappointment, but with my third 'me' novel, which I think is my best (despite, ironically, selling far fewer copies that my other books), I can look and just read and be content.


What is your idea of Writing Heaven and Writing Hell?


Writing Heaven would be me being able to write a book quickly and then, of course, finding a lot of readers who like it. I'm far too slow when it comes to writing a book, so that must be my Writing Hell. And if I'm slow and a book doesn't sell well then I'm digging myself even deeper in!



A modern-day Fatal Attraction, Just One Time is a steamy psychological thriller that will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath until its shocking conclusion.


VAD Publishing
ebook
7 December 2017
Two years ago, David Madden made a mistake that almost cost him his marriage. His wife, Alison, gave him another chance, but she has not forgotten, nor has she forgiven.

She is irresistible.
Then David meets the alluring Nina at a theatre in London. When he loses his phone in the dark, she helps him find it, and by giving her his number he unwittingly invites her into his life.

What David initially views as an innocent flirt turns into a dangerous game of deception. His increasingly suspicious wife thinks something is up, and each lie he tells pushes them further apart.

She is insatiable.

Nina pursues David relentlessly, following him to New York where she gives him an ultimatum: sleep with her, just one time, and then she’ll get out of his life forever; or she’ll ruin everything he holds dear.

She is unstoppable.

Of course, once won’t be enough for Nina, and what David hoped would be the end is merely the beginning.


What did I think about it..,

This story grabbed my attention from the beginning with a steamy prologue which sets the scene for the rest of the novel. And as the story progresses, what comes to mind is that old saying "Oh, what a tangled web we weave",  and the hapless David is about get tangled in the web of a woman who can only be described as akin to a black widow spider. That she lies in  wait and lures David into her clutches makes for compelling reading and, once I started reading Just One Time I struggled to put the story down for more than few minutes as I wanted to see just how far the story would go and believe me this one goes a long, long way indeed !

The author does a great job of controlling a complicated plot and cranks up the tension to high in subtle, and some not so subtle, ways, which I enjoyed trying to work out for myself. To say more would be to do both the book and the author a complete disservice as this is one of those books which doesn't deserve to have its plot spoiled by me, so all I will say is that if you like a deeply disturbing psychological thriller with myriad twists and turns then Just One Time will work for you, as it worked for me.


About the author

This the first novel by K.S. Hunter, the alter ego of an international bestselling author, whose identity will remain a secret.

Follow Just One Time on Twitter @Author_KSHunter #Just One Time


Amazon UK




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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Two new Poetry Pamphlets from Candlestick Press



Varied and vivid poems exploring our relationships with siblings


Ten Poems about Sisters

Published November 2017 priced £4.95

Ten Poems about Brothers

Published November 2017 priced £4.95


The two latest mini-anthologies from Candlestick extend their family of pamphlets celebrating people to Ten Poems about Fathers, Mothers, Aunts, Grandparents and Babies, adding a delightful pair of titles featuring poems of reflection, joy, sadness and (inevitably) mischief.

Each selection explores the delights and challenges of the sibling bond – from the games and secrets of early childhood to the separate journeys of later life. Ten Poems about Sisters introduces us to two young sisters who together form a pair of ‘toe-tapping feet’ and we taste the thrill of refusing to follow convention in a poem about defiant sisterhood. In Ten Poems about Brothers, there are brothers who fight, brothers who sing, and a brother who won’t answer the phone to his anxious sister. We meet teenage brothers who are so alike they even smell the same.

The poems are tender, intriguing and humorous by turn – and are sure to provoke many a lively conversation between siblings. Most of all they reflect the abiding love we feel for a brother or sister and demonstrate how this can enrich a life, and sometimes even save it.

Ten Poems about Sisters: poems by Julia Bird, Wendy Cope, Michael Donaghy, Galway Kinnell, Esther Morgan, PK Page, Dorothea Smartt, Jean Tepperman, Jack Underwood and Julia Webb.

Ten Poems about Brothers: poems by Matthew Dickman, Jonathan Edwards, Lavinia Greenlaw, Joanne Limburg, Hannah Lowe, Rebecca McClanahan, Rob Miles, Mary O’Donnell, Ben Scammell and Floyd Skloot.
Cover illustrations by Hilke MacIntyre 

Ten Poems about Brothers ISBN 978 1 907598 494
Ten Poems about Sisters ISBN 978 1 907598 50

I love poetry pamphlets from Candlestick press. Printed on high quality paper with a wonderful bookmark, each selection of poems a joy to read. They make a great alternative to sending a card or would make a perfect stocking filler gift for Christmas.


Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Friendship, Tea, Puddings, Gardens, Birds and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Website

Follow on Twitter @PoetryCandle



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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Christmas Read ~ Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky by Holly Martin






31423829
Zaffre
November 2017

Many thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


Blurb from the Book...

Piper Chesterfield's life as a hotel travel writer is glamorous. Staying in the finest hotels is the everyday for her. She calls nowhere home and that's how she likes it.
When Pipers next assignment brings her to the enchanting Stardust Lake Hotel for the festive season is should be business as usual - until Gabe Whitaker the man who broke her heart checks in

But Piper isn't the only one who had been frozen in time by heartbreak...

Fate has reunited then but can a little Christmas magic keep them together?



My thoughts..

If a cuddly blanket could be book shaped then Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky is the absolute perfect match to wrap yourself up in. The warmth of this wonderfully romantic festive story spreads from the absolute beauty of its sparkly cover, to the delicate balance of romance and family drama, which blend together to make the perfect fit for a delightful Christmas read.

When Piper Chesterfield visits the magical Juniper Island to write an incognito report of the newly opened Stardust Lake Hotel, she doesn't bargain on meeting her childhood sweetheart, Gabe Whittaker, the man who broke her heart so many years ago.

What then follows is  a deliciously romantic read which will have you smiling and wishing that you could visit this magical resort for yourself. The story is unashamedly romantic, with the added inclusion of sparkly snow, frolicking reindeers, sleek snowmobiles, a feisty heroine and a dashing and handsome leading man. The developing relationship between Piper and Gabe is done with lovely romantic detail and as each of them reveal their stories you can't help but hope that life will be kinder and will give them another chance at finding love.

I fell completely under the spell of Christmas Under a Cranberry Sky and read the book in one sitting, just stopping to refill my mug of hot chocolate. 


Amazon UK

Find out more about the author and her books here

Follow on Twitter @HollyMAuthor





Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Christmas Read ~ The Deaths of December by Susi Holliday






Mulholland Books
November 2017
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book to read and review


Blurb from the Book...

It looks like a regular advent calendar.

Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors...and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.

The police hope it's a prank. Because if it isn't, a murderer has just surfaced - someone who's been killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station?

As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them...

It's shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas.


My thoughts...
There's so much wholesome goodness in an advent calendar. Looking under each door to discover the hidden delight is something everyone can look forward to in the run up to Christmas. Now, when you've read The Deaths of December, the question is....will you be quite so eager to peak beneath the doors on your Advent calendar?

What looks to be an ordinary advent calendar lands on DC Becky Greene's desk in the police incident room and reveals far more than your average piece of dairy milk chocolate. Behind each door lies a photograph which reveals something horrific and which puts the whole investigative team on a race  against time to find whoever sent the calendar before their luck runs out.

This is an intelligently plotted and suspenseful crime story which doesn't get too encumbered by unnecessary police procedural stuff but which focuses on the realistic race to find the perpetrator of a series of violent deaths. The killer seems to taunt the police team, and for one member in particular, the race becomes a very personal challenge. We see two aspects of the story, that of the perpetrator, and also that of the two officers who are hell bent on finding the killer before the last few doors on the advent calendar are opened. DC Becky Greene and her relationship with her boss, DS Eddie Carmine is nicely developed and adds human interest to what is, in effect, a very dark story which has, it must be said, very little festive cheer.

I've read this author's crime stories before and am always intrigued by her ability to control a complicated story line with relative ease. She takes you by the hand and leads you into some very dark and dangerous places but does so with a light touch and an easy manner.

If you want something decidedly different then the The Deaths of December will make sure that you won't look at your innocent advent calendar in quite the same way ever again 😱




About the Author


Susi Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition. She is the author of three novels in the Banktoun trilogy, Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly. She is married and lives in London.

Follow on Twitter @SJIHolliday #TheDeathsofDecember
@MulhollandUK










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Monday, 4 December 2017

Christmas Blog Tour ~ Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber


Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be starting off the Merry and Bright Blog Tour today





Arrow
16 November 2017

Thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Merry Smith is relying on her temping job at Matterson Consulting to last until Christmas but she keeps getting on the wrong side of her grumpy boss, Jayson Bright, who seems to be determined to find fault with everything Merry does. Merry's sweet nature doesn't let too many things get the better of her as her life at home, although fraught with difficulties, is filled with warmth and love. On the other hand, Jayson Bright is finding that the pressure of keeping his business afloat in a competitive market, means that he has little time for love and, it would seem, that he isn't very good at personal relationships. However, fate has a funny way of intervening and in Merry and Bright there are a whole heap of surprises to discover about life and love.

I really enjoyed this festive story which has such a lovely warmth to it that you can't help but be drawn into the whole concept of finding love in the most unexpected of places. Merry and Bright is written with a lovely light touch which gets right into the heart of family life and which shows that the true spirit of Christmas comes from being with those we love. The warmth of Merry's life is shown in direct contrast to Jason, who, although he has so much materially, he has little love in his life and he comes across as a rather lost and lonely figure.

There is no doubt that this talented author really knows how to hold the reader's interest, and with fine attention to detail, and a lovely array of characters, she gives exactly what her readers love to find in a wonderfully, festive read.




Debbie Macomber is a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and one of today’s most popular writers. In addition to fiction, Debbie has also published two bestselling cookbooks; numerous inspirational and nonfiction works; and two acclaimed children’s books. The beloved and bestselling Cedar Cove series became Hallmark Channel’s first dramatic scripted television series, Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove, which was ranked as the top program on US cable TV when it debuted in summer 2013. Hallmark has also produced many successful films based on Debbie’s bestselling Christmas novels. Debbie Macomber owns her own tea room, and a yarn store, A Good Yarn, named after the shop featured in her popular Blossom Street novels. She and her husband, Wayne, serve on the Guideposts National Advisory Cabinet, and she is World Vision’s international spokesperson for their Knit for Kids charity initiative. A devoted grandmother, Debbie and her husband Wayne live in Port Orchard, Washington (the town on which her Cedar Cove novels are based) and winter in Florida.


Find the author on her website and Twitter @debbiemacomber

Follow the Blog Tour on Twitter  #MerryandBright @arrowpublishing

Amazon UK




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Sunday, 3 December 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...



Poems written in 1917


The Dead Kings

by

Francis Ledwidge


All the dead kings came to me

At Rosnaree, where I was dreaming,

A few stars glimmered through the morn,

And down the thorn the dews were streaming.



And every dead king had a story

Of ancient glory, sweetly told.

It was too early for the lark,

But the starry dark had tints of gold.


I listened to the sorrows three

Of that Eire passed into song.

A cock crowed near a hazel croft,

And up aloft dim larks winged strong.


And I, too, told the kings a story

Of later glory, her fourth sorrow:

There was a sound like moving shields

In high green fields and the lowland furrow.


And one said: ‘We who yet are kings

Have heard these things lamenting inly.’

Sweet music flowed from many a bill

And on the hill the morn stood queenly.


And one said: ‘Over is the singing,

And bell bough ringing, whence we come;

With heavy hearts we’ll tread the shadows,

In honey meadows birds are dumb.’


And one said: ‘Since the poets perished

And all they cherished in the way,

Their thoughts unsung, like petal showers

Inflame the hours of blue and grey.’


And one said: ‘A loud tramp of men

We’ll hear again at Rosnaree.’

A bomb burst near me where I lay.

I woke, ’twas day in Picardy.


1917


Francis Edward Ledwidge was an Irish war poet from County Meath in Ireland.

 Sometimes known as the "poet of the blackbirds".

He was killed in action at the Battle of Paschendaele in 1917.



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Saturday, 2 December 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Christmas at Woolworths by Elaine Everest






On His Fic Saturday 


Let's go back to ...1942


35160363
Pan Macmillan
2 November 2017

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

"Even though there was a war on, the Woolworths girls brought Christmas cheer to their customers"

Sarah, Maisie and Freda work together at the Erith branch of Woolworths and have formed a strong bond of friendship which has seen them through difficult times, however, their loyalty and camaraderie is about to be tested again in this difficult year of World War Two. With their loved ones caught up on the war, the girls must keep their morale high, even though, at times, they are caught up in the worry and uncertainty of not knowing what's going on with those they love.

The story very quickly involves the reader in the lives of this feisty group of women, and even though I haven't read the previous book, The Woolworth Girls, I very quickly picked up the nature of the story and enjoyed getting to know the different personalities. I think that the wartime feel of the novel sits nicely against the festive element and shows just how good people were at making the best of what was available.

The author writes with warmth and wit and creates an authentic war-time atmosphere, giving life to believable characters who linger long in the imagination. Becoming involved in their dramas and heartbreaks make this lovely novel an absolute joy to read.

I enjoyed spending Christmas at Woolworths with this group of women and hope to be able to catch up again with them in future sagas.




Elaine has written widely for women's magazines, with both short stories and features. When she isn't writing, Elaine runs The Write Place creative writing school in Dartford, Kent, and the blog for the Romantic Novelists' Association. Christmas at Woolworths is her third novel.


Elaine lives with her husband, Michael, and their Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, in Swanley, Kent.





Twitter @ElaineEverest  #ChristmasatWoolworths @panmacmillan






Friday, 1 December 2017

One from the Shelf..



First of the month is where I focus on a book that has been unread on my book shelf

for far too long !!


32665766
Corvus
November 2016
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


What's it all about...

In a quiet coastal village, Irina spends her days restoring furniture, passing the time in peace and hiding away from the world. A family secret, long held and never discussed, casts a dark shadow and Irina chooses to withdraw into her work. When an antique bureau is sent to her workshop, the owner anonymous, Irina senses a history to the object that makes her uneasy. As Irina begins to investigate the origins of the piece, she unearths the secrets it holds within.

Decades earlier, another young woman kept secrets. Her name was Abigail. over the course of one summer, she fell in love, and dreamed of the future. But Abigail could not know that a catastrophe loomed, and this event would change the course of many lives for ever.


My thoughts...

Well, firstly, this one has lingered far too long on my book shelf, and I have absolutely no excuses for not reading it before now, as I was a huge fan of this author's first book, The Silent Hours. 

The Last Night is a dual time story, which takes us back to the 1950s, and to the Lynmouth Flood, a true event which happened in this beautiful  part of the West Country. To say too much about that would be to spoil a big part of the story, so, all I will say is that I was fascinated that something so catastrophic happened in the past, and was now largely forgotten. The modern day element of the story captures the essence of a quiet coastal village and the part that furniture restorer, Irina Woods, plays in it makes for fascinating and compelling reading.

That Irina has secrets of her own is obvious in the way she has withdrawn from the world She hides  away, sheltered by her ability of lovingly restoring old pieces of furniture. However, it is her connection with the restoration of a beautiful antique bureau which opens up a whole series of long buried secrets which have been  left undisturbed for far too long.

As always, this author get right into the heart of the story, the insightful nature of her characters allow their individual stories to evolve slowly, so that nothing about the plot ever feels rushed or hurried. There is the usual fine attention to detail which is so much a trademark of this authors exceptional storytelling ability and the subtle way that she weaves both past and present is done with a lightness of touch which belies the overall strength of the novel.

The Last Night is an atmospheric and emotional story which captivated me from start to finish.  The mystery at the heart of the novel is beautifully developed and allows a glimpse into a really traumatic event, whilst at the same time tying the story to the present time.


About the Author


Cesca Major read history at Bristol University. She went on to work in television before becoming a history teacher.She has written regularly for the website www.novelicious.com and films writing videos for www.writersandartists.com. She currently works as a housemistress at a boarding school in Berkshire.

Follow on Twitter @CescaWrites

Goodreads

Amazon UK




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Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Author in my Spotlight is ....Virginia Moffatt



Jaffareadstoo is delighted to introduce debut author


Virginia Moffatt





Hi Virginia, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us to talk about your debut novel, Echo Hall on its Publication Day !!



Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?


I consider myself to be a community worker, having worked in a variety of roles across the public and nonprofit sectors, mainly in social care. I currently work in a support role in education.

My father was an English teacher so I was lucky enough to grow up in a house heaving with books. I think it was that, and the propensity of both my parents to tell stories, that inspired my twin sister (Julia Williams) and I to be writers. 

It took me a long time to get going, because when I was young, I lacked confidence. The only writing course around was the University of East Anglia Masters degree but it didn’t even occur to me that it would be worth trying that route.

I wrote a few stories and three quarters of a novel in my early twenties, but abandoned them when work and other academic study took over. Then I met my husband and before I knew it, we had three children, I was nearly forty and I wasn’t anywhere near being a writer.

It took having a career break for me to make the decision to commit to being a writer. A couple of years later we moved to Oxford began a writing course. I haven’t looked back since. 


Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Echo Hall?



In 2003 Chris and I moved to a small village in Northamptonshire. It was a very spooky place and we lived in a creaky old school house near a graveyard. So I often used to imagine I could hear voices in the night. Of course, it was just my imagination, but it got me thinking, what if those voices were real, whose voices would they be, what would they be saying and why?

Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away?

The novel tells the story of three different women, Ruth, Elsie and Rachel, who are all connected to the Flint family, the owners of Echo Hall a house on the borders of Wales. It begins with the newly married Ruth arriving at Echo Hall in 1990, to discover a place full of mysteries and unhappiness. Her search for the truth takes us back in time to meet Elsie in 1942, who is living with her unpleasant in-laws while her husband is away with the RAF. We then go further back to follow Rachel’s story from 1911 to 1924, discovering the source of the conflict which has damaged the family for so many years. Part four brings us back to Elsie and Part Five to Ruth, where the last secrets are finally exposed.

I hope the book is a gripping mystery and that readers will engage with the different characters and their dilemmas. But I’m also exploring a wider question of the impact of war on those who experience it, asking if conflict is inevitable or can we find another way?

Do you have a special place to write and where do you do your best thinking?

When I first started we were squeezed into a tiny little flat and the children were so small, I barely had time to write. What little I did manage was from the computer in the dining room, but for most of the first three years, the writing was mainly in my head. I did a lot of it running at the time and that was great for working out plots, characters, twists, motivations etc.

Once my youngest was at school and I was doing a writing course, I found I had time to work from the computer in our front room. As they got older, I’ve been driven into the kitchen, but I’ve learnt to write pretty much anywhere, cafes, trains, buses, parks...

Every now and then I get away on writing retreats, and I have loved those. I particularly enjoyed trips to Gladstone’s Library in Cheshire and Retreats for You in Devon.

What is your idea of writing Heaven and writing Hell?

Writing Heaven is going on a writing retreat. Writing at home is always snatched time first thing in the morning, or in the evening after work, and is often interrupted by the demands of family life. Being on a retreat is wonderful because I get meals cooked, and don’t have to worry about the housework. I usually end up being very anti social, starting early in the morning and writing till very late at night, and it makes for a very productive experience.

Writing Hell is when my writing gets derailed by the demands of life. Sometimes work is so busy that it takes up all my thinking time and I just don’t have enough brain space for anything else. On other occasions an emotional event, such as a bereavement has completely floored me and I haven’t been able to write. Stress is never good as it interferes with my creativity. But I’ve learnt that this happens from time to time, and usually when it passes I find myself returning to writing with enthusiasm.

Are you your worst critic and why?


I am, particularly during the editing process.The first draft is usually total rubbish, so I have to be able to step back and work out what needs to change to fix it. Then I have to rewrite, and rewrite and rewrite until I get to the point where someone professional needs to take a look. I was really lucky with Echo Hall to have a fantastic editor Scott Pack who was able to point out some serious flaws and ways to sort them out. 

I’m pretty happy with the finished version of Echo Hall, as I think we got it to the best place we could and there is a moment when you have to stop otherwise you over cook it. But I suspect in a few years I’ll look back on it and want to change something.

How can readers find out more about you and your writing?

I am very active on social media, on Twitter I am @aroomofmyown1 and Facebook Virginia Moffatt and Echo Hall. I’m always happy to talk about writing, reading, politics, and anything else that takes my fancy. I also have a blog, ‘A Room of My Own’ where I discuss books, writing and post the occasional review (https://virginiamoffattwriter.wordpress.com/). I’m always happy to chat about anything that interests me.


Echo Hall is published today Amazon UK


About the Author...

Virginia Moffatt was born in London, one of eight children, several of whom are writers. Her eldest brother writes about theology and politics, one sister is a poet, a second a translator and her twin sister is a successful author.

Virginia has always been a writer but began to take it seriously only in 2004, when she first had the idea for Echo Hall. In 2009, she setup her blog, ‘A Room of My Own’, where she publishes flash fiction, short essays and reflections about writing and reading.

Virginia also writes on political and faith issues. She has recently dited a collection of essays, Reclaiming the Common Good: How Christians can help rebuild a broken world, published by Darton, Longman and Todd in 2017. Her Lent course, Nothing More, Nothing Less, based around the film I, Daniel Blake, will be published by the same publisher on the 30th November 2017.

After working in social care for 30 years, Virginia left local government to work for the Christian think–tank Ekklesia in 2014.She currently works for a multi-academy trust as a procurement and contracts manager.

Virginia is married to Chris Cole, director of Drone Wars UK. They have three children and they live in Oxford.



Huge thanks to Virginia for being such a lovely author in our spotlight today and for answering our questions so thoughtfully.


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